Dennis Rodman lashed out at CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday morning after the CNN host questioned his exhibition basketball game in North Korea and how his visit would affect the family of American citizen Kenneth Bae.
Bae has been held under hazy charges by North Korean authorities since his arrest on Nov. 3, 2012, and is currently serving a 15-year sentence in a labor camp. Cuomo asked Rodman about the detention of Bae in North Korea. Rodman stammered and struggled to address the Bae situation before lashing out at Cuomo.
In the interview Cuomo asked, “Are you going to take an opportunity, if you get it, to speak up for the family of Kenneth Bae and say, ‘Let us know why this man is being held?’ If you can help them, will you take the opportunity?”
Rodman responded: “The one thing about politics, Kenneth Bae did one thing. If you understand — if you understand what Kenneth Bae did.” He added: “Do you understand what he did? In this country?”
Rodman’s voice rose as he bashed Cuomo for not recognizing the sacrifice being made by the former NBA players who are in North Korea playing as a “birthday present” for President Kim Jong-un.
According to the Washington Post, Rodman and his teammates are in Pyongyang to play an exhibition game, reportedly against the North Korean national team, in honor of Kim’s birthday on Jan. 8. Kim grew up as a huge fan of Rodman’s championship Chicago Bulls teams in the 1990s, despite his country’s strict isolationism. Kim and Rodman have more recently become good friends, according to Rodman.
The current trip, which is being sponsored by Irish online-gambling company Paddy Power, is not Rodman’s first to North Korea. He initially visited last February as part of a documentary project for Vice, then returned in December as a precursor to his current stay. As his relationship with Kim seems to evolve, the public tenor regarding Rodman’s time in North Korea has shifted from smug bemusement to growing disgust in the context of North Korea’s ugly human rights record.